Offering a ‘seat at the table’ for worshippers and the wider public since its consecration in June 1904, Belfast Cathedral has launched an important appeal. Led by the Dean, the Very Reverend Stephen Forde, the Cathedral is preparing for a year of celebrations, commemorations, and special events. These will highlight the colourful history and important role it has played historically and continues to play in the lives of Belfast’s faithful from all denominations and, indeed, civic life in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Cathedral’s Chairs Appeal aims to raise £75,000 before the Cathedral’s 120-year service of celebration and thanksgiving on 2nd June 2024. Funds raised will replace the existing wooden chairs in the Cathedral’s nave, which have been in continuous use for 120 years, and ensure that the cathedral is in a good position for welcoming visitors from across the community and around the world for this momentous year in the Cathedral’s history.
Commenting on the importance of the Chairs Appeal in setting the Cathedral up for its year of celebrations Dean Stephen Forde said, “Following 120 years of use, the chairs in Belfast Cathedral have offered a place for faithful parishioners who have gathered for weekly services and private prayer, for civic leaders and foreign dignitaries who have attended important commemorations and memorial ceremonies, and a multitude of events for which the cathedral has been used over the years. These chairs have played such an important role in making visitors to the Cathedral feel welcome, but unfortunately time has taken its toll and it is time to invest in the future of our Cathedral and the comfort of our guests.”
“We are proud to be ‘the Cathedral at the heart of the city, with the city at its heart’, and have a strong ethos of welcoming all guests, no matter their walk of life or religious background. We feel that the introduction of these new chairs will serve as a symbol of our continued community growth and service for generations to come.”
Highlighting the important role these chairs have played over the last century, one iconic photo taken inside Belfast Cathedral depicts soldiers seeking reprieve during the Second World War, seated in uniform in the simple wooden chairs with weapons nearby. Honouring the gravity of their role in the life of the Cathedral, the team have sourced quality seating worthy of Belfast city’s cathedral which will offer comfort and the ability to be arranged in different configurations or stack for more streamlined storage. The Cathedral hopes to have 500 new chairs in place to kick off its upcoming ‘BC120’ celebrations.
Whilst many donors may feel a close attachment to Belfast Cathedral, having spent important moments in life within its walls, Dean Forde has also invited families who lost a relative during the Covid-19 pandemic to consider donating in honour of their loved ones. “There were many funerals that unfortunately could not take place due to the restrictions in place to stop the spread of Covid-19. At this time of year, those empty chairs at the dinner table and the lack of closure for their family members rings louder than ever. We believe that many people may wish to donate a chair in memory of those lost during Covid-19 or indeed anyone wishing to memorialise a loved one within the space of our beloved Cathedral.”
The anchor point of Belfast’s globally-renowned Cathedral Quarter, Belfast Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of St Anne, has been the location for countless important commemorations, funerals, weddings, celebrations and civic events, across the years, notably the recent Service of Reflection for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended by King Charles III and then Queen Consort Camilla in September 2022. The Chairs Appeal is just the first step of a long-term project which will examine the role of Belfast Cathedral in Modern Belfast. ‘BC120,’ which will run from 2024 – 2027, will launch an ambitious plan, spearheaded by the newly-formed Belfast Cathedral Foundation, to raise new funding to secure the future viability of the Cathedral for the coming years. The mission of ‘Preserving the past, building for the future’ will underpin the strategy and actions of the Foundation.
Belfast Cathedral is now welcoming donations to their Chairs Appeal in preparation for their 120-year celebrations. Donors are encouraged to give what they can, with donations of £150 or higher + gift aid to dedicate a chair in honour of a loved one, with their name and dates etched in a commemorative display within the Cathedral. Please visit the Cathedral’s Crowdfunder link.